Category Archives: Rando How-Tos

The SIR Ride with GPS Club Account

by Bill Gobie

You may have noticed that SIR’s Ride with GPS routes are in the Seattle International Randonneurs club account. The club account gives SIR members some great benefits.

Even if you only have a free basic RwGPS account, SIR members can access RwGPS’ premium-level features for SIR brevets and permanents. These features are:

  • If you use the RwGPS mobile app on your phone you get:
    • Voice navigation – your phone speaks each cue.
    • Offline maps – you can download the route and required maps to your phone, then navigate in areas without cell coverage. You can navigate with your phone in airplane mode to save power and data usage.
  • If you use a gps that uses TCX files, you get advanced turn notifications, which has your gps alert you prior to arriving at a turn. The distance before turns is customizable.
  • If you use a Garmin Edge GPS, you can use the Write to Garmin function to load a route onto your Garmin.
  • You can use the PDF Maps and Cuesheets features to produce printed directions. Since randonneur events must provide a cuesheet, these features are not very important for SIR members.

How to join the club account

  1. First you need to have a personal Ride with GPS account. Go to: and sign up. You only need to sign up for a free account.
  2. Go to the SIR RwGPS club main page: Click on “Apply to join” and fill out the form. The account administrator will check that you are an SIR member and approve your membership.
  3. Once you are approved, your personal RwGPS home page will list SIR under Clubs in the left sidebar.

How to use your club membership

  1. Log in to your personal RwGPS account.
  2. Click on the SIR club link in the left sidebar on your personal RwGPS account home page. You will be taken to the SIR Club page.
  3. Scroll down to the Route Library. You can sort the routes by clicking on the column headings. You can use the Filters to efficiently find a route. You can filter by:
    • Route name or permanent number
    • Tag. We try to tag all the routes as permanents or brevets, by distance, and year for brevets. There are other tags, too, which you will see on the popup menu.
    • Location. Location is the city or county where a route starts, as determined by RwGPS.
  4. You can go to a route by clicking on a link, for example, in an SIR brevet description page. To get the premium features make sure you are signed into the club account first.
  5. You should watch Ride with GPS’ video to see how to use the premium features, such as downloading a route to your phone.


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Each Qualifying Brevet Has A Purpose

After riding a few of these solo with nothing else to do but contemplate the meaning of it all, I have come to the conclusion that each qualifying brevet has a purpose. Each distance has a lesson for the rider to learn or re-learn as necessary. Each distance is both an event and preparation for the next event.

Ron Himschoot

Ron Himschoot

The purpose of the 200K is to teach you the basics of how it all works. How to follow a route. How to get your card validated at controls. How to ride within time limits.

The purpose of the 300K it to teach you how to take care of yourself on a long ride. How to stay on top of your food and water consumption. How to keep going when you get tired without hurting yourself.

The purpose of the 400K is to teach you how to ride at night. How to equip your bike with lights that meet your needs. How to stay safe in the dark.

The purpose of the 600K is to teach you how to ride until you are exhausted, get some sleep, and get up and ride some more. Going to sleep when you are exhausted isn’t as easy as it sounds. Getting ready to ride again with your head in a fog and your muscles tightened up isn’t as easy as it sounds, either.

These are all lessons you need to learn if you want to be a Randonneur. Cut corners on your reflective clothing at your own peril. Neglect to equip your machine with with satisfactory lighting and you’ll regret it. You wont last long in this sport just meeting the minimum requirements. You spent a lot of money on your bike. You spent a lot of money for a wool jersey. You spend a lot of money on everything surrounding this sport. Go buy a decent reflective vest for crying out loud.

– Ron “The Club Curmudgeon” Himschoot

Editor’s Note: Ron Himschoot, RUSA 679, is a three time PBP ancien (1997, 2007, 2011) and has completed over 40,000 lifetime kilometers with RUSA. That’s a lot of contemplation. 😉

Thanks to Ron for sharing these lessons from the qualifying series. If you’re not yet prepared for night riding, you can buy a PBP-compliant vest and RUSA-required ankle bands from the RUSA store:


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Thoughts for the new rider

By John Kydd
I’m a new rider.  I just did my first 300 and 400 so I am your guide to clueless riding.  I don’t have any Rando buddies save for the fact that my little sister rode many years ago.
Here are my “newbie” observations.
1.   These are good people.  They watch out for each other and you if you can keep with their pace.  Find a group that goes at a pace that is comfortable for you.  Introduce yourself and see if it’s reciprocated.  Then you’ve got some one to talk with.  Figure out what they eat at rest stops and buy stuff to share. 
2. Try to be quick at the stops ( I am not quick).  Do what you need to do and then you can relax and not slow the group down when they decide to leave.
3.  If you flat or something else just take it on and fix it.  Pick up the next group that comes by so you are not stuck out there alone.  Be sure to program in the brevet director’s phone number into your phone speed dial in case you can’t fix the problem.  If you are outside of cell reception then try to get to the next rest stop or wait for another rider. Be sure to pack a space blanket.  Hypothermia is no fun.
4.  Read the RUSA Handbook articles.  They are fantastic:  one hundred seventy four pages of wisdom and experience.  Skip around and sample the articles you like the most until you get to all of them..
5.  Consider joining the Seattle Randonnneurs mailing list at – There is a ton of great information and you can meet the interesting writing personality of many of the riders.
6.  If you have not ridden in pace lines and such then try your best to hold your line.  Avoid sudden moves (particularly braking) until you alert the people behind you by shouting “slowing”  or “stopping” before you do so.  If I start to ride wobbily then I head to back of the group so I do not put anyone else at risk.
7.  Don’t worry about getting dropped by your group.  It happens.  It is not intentional as folks just ride their pace.   Slow down, fuel up and a another group will meet you or you can wait at the next rest stop.
8.  Garmin’s are not enough.  On the Crystal 300 I would have ended up in Tukwila if I followed my Garmin.  I later figured out that my Garmin confused the route out with the route back when the same road was used.  Go figure. Or maybe it was aliens.  I pulled out my cue cards and used them to find my way back to one of those wise riders (Hugh Kimball) who was kind enough to rescue me (from myself).
9.  If you have not ridden the route then study it.  I relied on my Garmin the first time: big mistake.  Highlight the controls and other important stops.
10.  Have fun.  Enjoy the beauty, the stories and all the mordant comments as the miles pile on,   Fun means not having to impress or win.  Fun also means safe.  If you are nodding off then it’s time for a quick nap.  No shame in that. Fun is not riding yourself senseless but listening to body instead of ego. Fun is taking good care of you so you make it home intact where that cold beer has been waiting for hours just to greet you.


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Dr. C on the Joys of Volunteering

Paul Johnson’s article on the joys of volunteering appeared in the May 2009 edition of American Randonneur. In it Paul quotes another randonneur who says “but I really volunteer because of some guys named Codfish and Ray who gave me a couple of mochas and a warm truck to sit in at the bottom of White Pass on the 600K last year. I was cold, really cold, …”. That quote was not mine, but it could have been, Paul’s mocha at that same control was a big help in finishing my first 600k. Thank you Paul.

If you are looking for a way to volunteer, Mark Thomas recently posted a list of volunteering opportunities.

Paul Blogs about randonneuring and all sorts of other things at The Dr Codfish Chronicles.

Dr. C on the Joys of Volunteering

By Paul Johnson



Have you ever stopped to ask what the mission of RUSA, or your local Randonneuring club is? This from the RUSA Website: “What is RUSA? Randonneurs USA (RUSA) is a national organization whose goals are to promote randonneuring in the U.S. and provide service to American randonneurs and randonneuses.”

I considered asking how you thought RUSA is doing, but if you are reading this I assume you are a member, so the more appropriate questions is, how are you doing? If you are a member, you are RUSA and it is incumbent upon you to do your part to “promote randonneuring in the U.S. and provide service to American randonneurs and randonneuses.”

Achieving the Goals

Now you might think that paying your annual dues, getting out on your bike and riding brevets, talking it up with your co-workers over the water cooler is enough. By now I’m sure you can see where this is headed. Tact has been described as the art of making your point without skewering someone with it. I’ll be tactful but the point is, you should do more.

Consider that this organization is run exclusively by volunteers. Though the president and board are probably worthy of huge retention bonuses, we’ve all seen recently how that can backfire, so all the high powered execs at RUSA get for their good work is…more work. What do I mean? Well look at our membership statistics, the number of events we put on, the number of kilometers ridden year by year, the number of medals, awards, and other outputs and this can only be seen as more work. In fact, in my short time as a member I have been just amazed at the growth of our sport and our club. My concern is that the number of volunteers has not grown with our sports popularity.

In prepping this article I sent an inquiry around to a few folks to get their thoughts. I asked all the RBAs and a selection of regular, run-of-the-mill members, some of whom are “habitual offenders” and a few who are new to the sport and to volunteering. Here are the questions I asked:

  1. Why do you volunteer?
  2. How does volunteering for randonneuring events differ from your other (if any) volunteering efforts?
  3. Can you relate a memorable event? (keep it short)

What They Said

The responses varied, some were predictable and some were surprising.

One predictable answer I got was that the person just didn’t have time to respond. In my work life I often provide assistance to start up organizations and volunteer groups. There is an old adage that holds true: If you want to get something done, find a busy person. Busy people often have to make decisions about what they can engage in and in this case this person was focused more on doing than on talking about doing. It was a great response.

One of the RBA’s, for a club that puts on a LOT of brevets down south said point blank that if more people volunteered to help out, they could put on even more events. I think that is probably true everywhere. Though your club may put on enough events for you, imagine what it would be like if you had a choice of several different events in different locations on a given weekend in the summer. Sound over the top? Well, let the idea roll around in your noggin and then go back to the RUSA mission and ask yourself how more opportunities might help promote randonneuring (remember… the goal?) It may seem preposterous now but I imagine that just 10 years ago the founders of RUSA might not have believed that there would over 2,300 members in 2009.

How To Get Started

The most obvious thing you can do for your club is to volunteer to help out on a brevet. I recently read a ride report that gushed with gratitude for the help that volunteers offered at a control on a particularly challenging brevet. It’s true that we value self sufficiency but who hasn’t rolled into a control at one time or another and been absolutely thankful for a person who takes the bike and hands you a hot (or cold) beverage, a cup-O-noodles, an ice cold soda, and maybe a beat up lawn chair (or a warm pick up cab) to relax and recover in for a few minutes? If you’ve taken advantage of this kindness you know exactly what I am talking about, and if you haven’t, believe me, it is really wonderful to see that such a little gesture can be so warmly received.

If your idea of randonneuring is just showing up at the start, riding the brevet, and turning your card in, you need to rethink your relationship to the sport. You may take exception to that notion but here is an undeniable fact: If it were not for volunteers, you wouldn’t have any events to show up for!

I like doing this myself. I have noticed, and others I interviewed mentioned that you get a look at every rider: you get to see how the fast fish get it done (I never see these people after the start otherwise) you can see how the mid-packers get around the course and your personal assistance can encourage a newbie, or even an old hand at the back of the pack to soldier on, at least to the next control when they might otherwise have handed in their brevet card.

You will also be taking a little of the pressure off those I refer to as “habitual offenders.” Every club has a small cadre of folks who show up year in and year out to volunteer at events. It’s really not fair for you to just show up to ride and assume that someone else will always take care of the logistics.

Make it Fun

Volunteering to run a control also offers an opportunity to put your own personal stamp on the event. I once ran a nighttime control on a late season 1000K brevet. The riders had just descended off Elk pass in the first snow of the fall; they were really cold when they got into our stop. Mrs. C and I had set up a cozy little nest in a campground, and I’d built a big bonfire. The Coleman camp stove was steaming away with coffee and clam chowder. We had lounge chairs, cuppa noodles, sandwiches, chips and cookies: the whole nine yards. The few riders on the event were thrilled to have the warmth. It was a real kick for my wife and me.

The Dog Ate My Homework

There are a lot of reasons not to volunteer. Most are based on a lack of information. “I’ve never done it before,” “I don’t have time,” “I don’t know enough to put on a brevet.” The list goes on. First, just realize that no one was born knowing it all. There was a time when you had never ridden a brevet before, right? Shoot, believe it or not, there was a time when you didn’t even know how to ride a bicycle. Where would you be if your folks had let the “I don’t know how” defense stand? Now you’re a super rando (sorry, no cape awarded) or at least you know how to ride a brevet. If you’ve ridden even one brevet you already know about 90 percent of what you need to volunteer. The other 10 percent is just details.

You will not be expected to jump off the cliff all alone. I guarantee that if you let someone know that you are willing to help out you will be supported to your own personal level of comfort. Once you’ve staffed a control, you will know almost everything there is to know to do it again alone. From there it is a quick slide down the slippery slope to organizing your own brevet. One more brevet organizer means one less event that the “regulars” have to gear up for. And you gain instant cred: You’ll be one of the “old hands!”

You’ll be on the short list for a ridiculously huge retention bonus when the stimulus package arrives. Again, you’ll have all the help and guidance needed to assure that you don’t fumble the ball.

Probably the best reason I can give you to try this is captured in this surprise answer I got from one of the people I queried. Really, I’m not making this up:

“But I really volunteer because of some guys named Codfish and Ray who gave me a couple of mochas and a warm truck to sit in at the bottom of White Pass on the 600K last year. I was cold, really cold, and I was having thoughts that I might actually be in danger. But there in the distance was a SIR sign with a little blinky light. It was a big deal, and it helped me finish that ride. When I thanked you later for your help, I think you said something like, ‘think about supporting some event too.’ That, my friend was a ‘teachable moment.’”

This was totally unexpected and I would like to say when I read it the moment came rocketing back into my memory. The truth is Ray and I stuffed a number of guys in that truck to warm them up and Joe was just one of the shivering faces with blue lips poking out under a helmet that needed a few moments to get the circulation back in the fingers and toes to get ready to take on Cayuse pass and the home stretch.

The take-home message is that these efforts not only help riders go along their way, but they very likely inspire others to do the same. The need to “pay it forward” is strong in our community and your effort will make a difference in ways you can’t really imagine.

Keep in mind, Paul Revere is not remembered for what he did 9 to 5, but for his volunteer efforts, and look what a difference he made in the world, (Revere Ware notwithstanding).

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Navigation Aid

Cue sheets sometimes fail us, whether because of errors and omissions by the ride organizers or because our navigations skills let us down.

Many riders (including me) have started to use GPS units to supplement or replace their cue sheet navigation. They have their own issues, of course, including the need to keep them charged for an entire ride.

For what it’s worth, I’ve been experimenting with a smartphone-based backup for navigation. I use it as a fallback if both my GPS and my cue sheet fail me. For non-GPS owners it could just be a backup to their cue sheet navigation. Someone suggested that I post some details about it online, so here it is.

The idea is to combine off-line maps preloaded into the phone, a track of the route preloaded into the phone, and the GPS capabilities of the phone.

The value of having off-line maps is to provide street-level information when the phone has no access to cellular signal (or when cellular data is switched off to save money when traveling out of the country). I use an app called MapsWithMe on my iPhone. There is a free version, but I paid a few bucks for the full version. Versions are available for Android and Kindle as well, but I have no experience with them. A recent update to the iPhone app added the ability to import a KML file which helps with the second piece of the puzzle.

The next step is to load the track of the route into the application as well. My preferred method to do this is to use an online mapping application like BikeRouteToaster or RideWithGPS to create a track from the ride’s official cue sheet. Often the ride organizers will publish an unofficial GPS file, the pre-ride volunteers will offer one, or someone that I am willing to trust has created one. In those online applications can usually be found an option to download a GPX file that shows the track of the route. Once I have a GPX file, I go to a website that will convert the GPX to a KML file, viewable in the MapsWithMe application. The site I use is Then you need to get the KML file into the phone. Dropbox or email does the trick with iPhone.

Now, if I find myself lost or doubting my navigation, I can open the app on the phone and locate myself on the map. If all has worked, I should be able to see my position (represented on the iPhone by a blue dot), the streets around me, and a line represented the course. If I’m off course, perhaps that’s enough to get me back on course. Or maybe enough to ask a kind stranger to help.

Hope that’s helpful. Questions, better ideas, other thoughts welcome in the comments.





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